Thursday, January 19, 2017

It Never Rains in California

This was the view from our kitchen this morning.  We here in San Diego are in for 6 straight days of rain.  After years of drought, I think we will have our water problems solved for the moment, although there will be problems with this much rain in a short period of time.
And, as usual here at Casa Phillips, it's time to make some soup.  Soup is one of those delicious foods that soothes your insides when your outside is cold and wet.  Today it's minestrone.  Minestrone is different in every part of Italy--literally it means 'without stock' and many cooks in Italy make theirs with water instead of broth, adding rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano and lots of herbs to the pot.

Mine began with sweet Italian sausage in my Cuisinart Multi-Cooker.  If you have a slow cooker, this is a great way to make soup, just set it and forget it.  In the Multi-Cooker, you can saute everything then turn it to slow cooker and you're done.  If you decide to use another protein, chicken, or pancetta will work here.  Or you can make this vegetarian by using olive oil to saute and then vegetable broth for the liquid.
Brown the sausage and remove any excess fat

Next in is the battuto; onion, celery, carrot and some tomato
Saute everything until the onion begins to soften
I add stock, and this is my go to when I don't have homemade, it's a concentrate so you can add as much as you like with water
Parmigiano Reggiano rinds (cut into cubes) zucchini, and some leftover green beans go in
1/2 a head of escarole, cleaned, and then cut into 1/2-inch ribbons---this is about 4 cups

Four hours on high

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped, including the leaves
1 tablespoon dried sage leaves (or rosemary or thyme)
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes
8 cups broth or water
3 medium zucchini, cut into dice
Rind of Parmigiano Reggiano cut into small pieces
1 cup green beans, ends snipped, and cut into 1-inch pieces
One 14.5-ounce can small white beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups chopped greens (I used escarole, but chard, or kale, or spinach works here)
salt and pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

In a Dutch oven, cook the sausage until it is no longer pink.  remove any excess fat from the pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and sage leaves, saute for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is softened.  Add the tomatoes, and saute another 2 minutes.  (If you are using a slow cooker, saute everything, add it to the slow cooker, then proceed)
Add the broth, zucchini, rind, beans, and greens, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low in the slow cooker.  Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  
Cook's Note:  If you want to add pasta, cook it first before adding it to the pot since it will absorb some of the liquid.  
Cook's Note 2:  Instead of canned beans you can add lentils or split peas (about 1 cup) not only do they add bulk, but they also thicken the soup.

Soup is a great way to use up leftovers, too.  That leftover rotisserie chicken would be perfect in this soup, or any leftover vegetables from other dinners can be tossed in.
Ciao for Now.

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